Richard Branson On Building An Empire… / Business Innovation
- Sir Richard Branson is in a reflective mood. Almost 40 years after the launch of the Virgin Records label vaulted him into the global consciousness, Branson is in Los Angeles ( June 19, 2012) to collect a special Grammy Award celebrating his contributions to the music business, and the honor finds him looking back on his transformation from industry interloper to institution.
- With his black leather jacket, manicured goatee and signature long hair, the roguish Branson still looks uncannily like the London-born hippie kid who gate-crashed the music biz four decades ago, and he retains the energy and intensity that fueled the Virgin Group empire as it expanded its reach to embrace air travel, broadcasting, publishing and mobile communications. But Branson has changed: Now 61, he devotes much of his time to personal passions like The Elders, the international human rights group chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
- “A lot of my entrepreneurial skills now are spent in setting up not-for-profit organizations,” he says. “We’re a little more secure now, so we do things a bit differently.” / Business Innovation /
The “Catalyst” Of Virgin Galactic… / Business Innovation
- Of course Branson has always done things a bit differently. It’s a philosophy that is central to the Virgin brand and ethos, and it’s the catalyst behind the project he calls “the most exciting thing” the company has ever pursued: Virgin Galactic, the commercial aerospace business devoted to providing spaceflights to everyday (albeit deep-pocketed) citizens. Slated to begin suborbital test flights later this year and passenger service by year’s end, Virgin Galactic has already signed up nearly 500 customers willing to fork over $200,000 each to reach an altitude of about68 miles above the Earth’s surface.
- Like all Virgin efforts, the Galactic unit emerged out of Branson’s deep dissatisfaction with the status quo.
- However, unlike other Virgin initiatives, Galactic is not an alternative to slow-footed, self-satisfied legacy corporations that have lost their way; it’s the vanguard of a nascent industry, with no rules to break and no establishment to topple. For Branson, this is a new frontier. / Business Innovation /
Hotels In Space: Who Is To Know..? / Business Innovation
- “First we’re taking people to suborbital space travel, then orbital, and then we’ll be able to put satellites into space at a fraction of the price it currently costs. One day, maybe even hotels in space–who’s to know?” Branson asks. “Whatever happens, it’s going to be ridiculously exciting. It’s the start of a whole new era.”
- The roots of Virgin Galactic lie in Virgin Atlantic Airways and Virgin America, the latter of which began flying out ofSan Franciscofive years ago. Renowned among travelers for their candy-colored onboard mood lighting, plush leather seats, expansive in-flight entertainment systems and passenger-to-passenger messaging tools, Virgin America aircraft now serve 18 locations across the U.S. and Mexico.
- “If you’re going to launch an airline in America, you need to make sure it’s far and away the best airline, and make sure you do it with panache and style and fun and flair, and really shake up the industry,” Branson says. “Your brand needs to make its mark, and making that mark means that when you go offer space travel or something, people will say they’d like you to be successful at that as well. So one thing leads on to another.” / Business Innovation /
Targeting Business Verticals… / Business Innovation
- Branson built the Virgin Group brand by targeting business verticals “where things are not being run well by other people,” and he remains driven by a compulsive desire to do things the way he believes they should be done. Seemingly all of Branson’s stories of entrepreneurial success begin as tales of consumer discontent. In the case of Virgin Records, he formed his own label because no established company would agree to release multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield’s hypnotic Tubular Bells; the album inaugurated the Virgin imprint in 1973 and went on to sell more than 16 million copies worldwide.
- In the case of Virgin Atlantic, Branson and 50 other passengers found themselves stranded in Puerto Rico when American Airlines canceled a flight to the Virgin Islands; he chartered a 50-seat plane, sold all the tickets for $39 apiece and not long after acquired a secondhand 747 to launch an airline in earnest. / Business Innovation /
Making A Radical Difference In Other People’s Lives… Business Innovation
- “There is no point in going into a business unless you can make a radical difference in other people’s lives,” Branson says. “To me, it’s like painting a picture: You have to get all the colors right and all the little nuances right to create the perfect picture, or the perfect company. I know that there’s need for Virgin to come in and attack a marketplace, because I know that I’m frustrated by having to experience bad service in that particular marketplace.
- So I’ll throw all the paint up and get all the best people in. By the time it sticks on the canvas, we’ll try to start getting some order into it. Every little single detail has to be right.”
- Branson embodies Virgin’s target demographic across all its endeavors, says Chip Conley, founder and CEO of the Joie de Vivre Hotels, international speaker and author of books including Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success. / Business Innovation /